5 winning social media ad strategies for airport concessions | Twelve Three Media

How Airport Concessions Can Win with Social Media Ads (Because Traditional Ads Aren’t Doin’ It!)

8 Minute Read

Listen up. Concessions—think food, bev, and retail offerings—account for up to 50% of airport revenue. As such, maximizing non-aeronautical revenue (i.e., money from sources other than air travel) is critical for airports across the globe. This creates significant competition for customers among airport concessions. So why are you leaving money on the terminal floor?

Twelve Three Media has been in the airport and airport concessions marketing game for over a decade. We know the ins and outs of non-aeronautical revenue, as well as the challenges individual concessionaires often face.

Concessionaires who are not part of some mega franchise must often rely on money from a joint marketing fund. These funds don’t go very far, making strategic and cost-effective strategies a must for capturing the attention of time-strapped travelers and meeting your business goals—especially when the question of whether spending on travel will ever return to pre-pandemic levels remains up in the air.

Social media advertising represents a major opportunity for concessionaires to promote their products and services to the right consumer at the right time and in the right place. This is where the magic happens, my friends. And here’s how.

Why Social Media Ads for Airport Concessions?

Travelers are generally advised to arrive 2 hours before their flight. On average, it takes about 20–30 minutes to go through security. That leaves approximately 90 minutes to kill before takeoff. So what do most people do? They pull out their phones.

Just about every person who enters an airport has a smartphone. (In the United States, there are almost as many smartphones as there are Americans.) Once they’re through security and make it to the gate, the majority of passengers will wile away the time scrolling through social media apps.

Statistic: Number of smartphone users in the United States from 2009 to 2040 (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Airport advertising is usually controlled by massive companies that charge a premium to run ads. Smaller concessions may find billboards, signage, and other advertising options prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, you can steal the spotlight with strategic social media advertising campaigns.

In addition to being cheaper than out-of-home advertising, advertisers are only charged when social media users view their ads. This makes for efficient and effective campaigns that won’t break the bank.

5 Strategies to Ace Airport Concession Social Media Advertising

Social media presents virtually endless opportunities for marketing and advertising. However, the key is to plan and implement campaigns tailored specifically to the needs of a particular consumer.

Airline travelers have very specific characteristics that make them unique compared to other retail customers. These include:

  • An extremely limited window to be wooed
  • The need for speed—wait times and delays must be kept to an absolute minimum
  • Very specific interests and wants when it comes to products and services
  • A small, confined geographic area
  • Restricted roaming range
  • High susceptibility to distraction

Concessions should be set up to meet the needs of travelers quickly and effectively. Your social media ads need to do the same.

These 5 simple steps can help airport concessionaires advertise successfully on social media and maximize their ROI:

1. Hone Your Geo-Targeting

Airports are massive facilities. Like, “why am I still walking” massive. Denver International Airport, for example, is 53 square miles, which is more than double the size of Manhattan. Major airports are divided into multiple terminals or concourses, each containing different concessions.

The first step of a killer social media advertising strategy for airport concessionaires is defining the exact geographical area where you want to serve ads to potential customers. Proximity is key, as no one is going to schlep their bags to another terminal for a latte.

Social media platforms like Facebook allow advertisers to create geo-targeting areas as small as 1 mile. By keeping the area where ads are served very small, concessionaires can ensure that only people in the immediate vicinity will see the ad.

Read More: How Do I Optimize My Facebook Ads?

Targeting a very small geographic area (such as a concourse at the airport) keeps the cost of social media ads low. It also improves the likelihood that a traveler who is within walking distance will visit your location and make a purchase.

2. Double Your Efforts with Geo-Fencing

A beacon is a small device that delivers location-based information to mobile phones with Bluetooth and/or GPS functions enabled. Concessionaires can use beacons at strategically placed locations within the airport (such as maps, signs, etc.) to deliver push notification ads to people nearby (a practice known as geo-fencing).

Beacons are a great way to capitalize on heavy foot traffic within a confined space to serve ads to prospective customers. Their accuracy is unbeatable, as only people within a certain distance from the beacon will receive your ad. Picture real-time, highly targeted ads zipping straight to potential customers.

Near field communication (NFC) is another geo-fencing technology that enables ads to be delivered to a user’s smartphone when it is in close proximity. And we mean really close proximity—usually 4 centimeters or less.

The principal application for NFC is touch-free payments using credit cards and smartphones. If an airport traveler uses a phone to purchase airline tickets or buy something in the terminal where your concession is located, that is a perfect opportunity to serve geo-fenced ads.

3. Identify Your Target Customer

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again—know who you’re talking to. Airport concessions range from shoeshine stands to high-end clothing stores, fast food outlets to 5-star dining experiences. Knowing the demographics of your target customer (such as age, income, etc.) and the social media platforms they use is critical for creating successful social media ads.

Statistic: Most popular social networks worldwide as of October 2023, ranked by number of monthly active users (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

In addition to solid geo-targeting, social media platforms provide advertisers a wealth of information about their users. Concessionaires can create custom and lookalike audiences based on their target customers’ characteristics, then run ads designed to engage customers meeting those criteria. Third-party data sources may also allow you to delve into customers’ purchases and buying habits, providing additional context for advertising within the airport.

For example, some airlines cater to budget travelers while others are associated with business travelers and people in first class. Some airport concourses are dominated by a single airline. In these scenarios, concessionaires can easily identify the demographics they serve and charm their socks off with compelling social media ads.

Read More: Top Social Media Platforms for Your Business in 2024

4. Push Those Limited Time Offers

With social media ads, a strong call-to-action is a must. Nothing says “act now” like a ticking clock.

Travelers already spend a limited amount of time in the airport. Social media ads for concessions should convey urgency to ensure that that limited time translates into a sale.

Conversion rates need to be assessed regularly to ensure ads with time-limited offers are bringing in business and helping you reach your revenue goals. If they aren’t, tweak the copy, imagery, audience targeting, time of day, and other elements.

5. Craft That Ad Copy

Putting the right message in front of the right consumer at the right time is the crux of successful marketing and advertising. For airport concessions, the right consumer is one searching for a particular service or product, and the right time is when they are on the concourse. But what’s the right message?

Concessionaires serve very particular needs. No matter the offering—food and drink, luggage, duty-free items, an overly expensive ergonomic neck pillow, etc.—it is important for businesses to create ad copy that resonates with customers.

Your ad copy should be individualized to the customer’s needs. Are they hungry? Do they need to buy something last-minute before the flight? Once you know their needs and how you can meet them, create ad copy that offers an incentive. This could be as simple as:

“Hot Coffee Now. $1 Off. No Line, No Wait. Right Next to [Gate #].”

Most airport advertising consists of billboards and ads running on screens. This is a mass media strategy, and although businesses might catch the eye of a traveler every now and then, most people won’t even notice.

Social media advertising is a more intimate, personalized experience. People pay far more attention to their phones than they do a sign or billboard precisely because they’ve come to expect—and savvy advertisers deliver—ad copy specific to their needs.

Concessionaires can also use split testing on social media ad platforms to try out different campaigns. If more people respond to one ad over another, that’s the ad you should serve to everyone that day.

How to Measure the Performance of Social Media Ads

Setting up the social media campaign? That’s easy. Tracking results and monitoring where your money is going is where it’s at.

A “one-and-done” mentality simply won’t cut it. When you’re competing against dozens of other businesses with similar (if not identical) offerings, you need to stay on top of key metrics such as:

  • Purchases of products and services (the main metric airport concessionaires will want to track for social media ad campaigns)
  • Foot traffic (i.e., how many people come to your stand or retail space)
    • If you run an ad and a lot of people come to the concession but don’t buy anything, you’ve got a problem. Take another look at your social media ads and make adjustments.
  • Engagement with the ad
    • Return on ad spend (ROAS) is a measure of how much revenue you earn compared to how much you spend on ads. While conversions are likely your primary concern, you should also be paying attention to how many people click the ad but don’t convert.

Social media platforms include comprehensive analytics for advertisers. The challenge for airport concessionaires is finding the time to delve into the data, as well as interpreting it correctly.

Get Big with Social Media Advertising

OK. Now that you know, it’s time to get it done. At Twelve Three Media, we work with small businesses, multinational corporations, and companies of all sizes in between. Our experience and passion for what we do makes us the experts you want in your corner when leveraging social media to maximize organic and paid results.

Non-aeronautical revenue is crucial for an airport’s profitability. While some concessionaires may assume that air travel creates a “captive audience,” the reality is that competition makes it difficult to stand out to customers once they reach the terminal.

If you’re serious about upping your game, Twelve Three Media has got your back. We know airport concessions and we’ve got the strategies that will help your business soar. Contact us today to take your social media advertising to new heights!

NOTE: A version of this article was originally published by Forbes Agency Council.

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